Talladega Nights (The Ballad of Ricky Bobby)
Main Point: There are plenty of wrong ways to pray, but, if we want our prayers to be answered, we must pray the way Jesus taught us to pray.
Movie Clip: “Dear Lord Baby Jesus”
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was your typical Will Ferrell movie: it was funny, but contaminated with the coarse material Ferrell has been known for throughout his acting career. This film tells the fictional story of a NASCAR driver named Rickey Bobby (Ferrell) who overcomes his deplorable childhood to become the best racer in the sport, only to be dethroned by European racing sensation Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen). Throughout the movie, Bobby tries to regain his status of being number one, while bumping into legitimate racing stars doing cameos.
- WARNING NOTE: We realize that many people might not want to use this clip. Even though the movie is PG-13 (which some people might consider acceptable for teenagers), the movie is far from clean. The only way we recommend using this particular clip is if all your kids have seen the film and are talking about it anyway. At that point, it might be good to respond with, “Okay, since you’ve seen this film, let’s talk about it for a moment.”
The scene that is used as the basis for this clip needs to be handled VERY carefully. The family is sitting around the dinner table when Ricky Bobby begins to say grace. The prayer itself has two swear words in it, and if you are not careful, the next line after “Amen” contains another swear word spoken by a child. Make sure to turn the DVD off before that line. You will need to gauge the appropriateness of this clip for yourself; just be informed about it on the front end. See the “Scene Script” below for a detailed account of the dialogue.
Many of you have seen Talladega Nights, the Will Ferrell movie about NASCAR; it had its funny parts, most of which made fun of rednecks. Right now, I want to show you the famous “prayer scene” from the movie where Ricky Bobby prays to “baby Jesus” and gives thanks to God for Taco Bell and Powerade. Let’s take a look at this clip to try and determine if this is the way we should pray or not.
BEGIN CLIP AT 0 hours, 12 minutes, 26 seconds (in Chapter 4).
- Carley: Supper’s ready! C’mon ya’ll. I’ve been slaving over this for hours.
Ricky: Dear Lord Baby Jesus, or as our brothers to the south call you, Jesús, we thank you so much for this bountiful harvest of Domino’s, KFC, and the always delicious Taco Bell. I just want to take time to say thank you for my family, my two beautiful, beautiful, handsome, striking sons, Walker and Texas Ranger, or T.R. as we call him, and of course, my red-hot smoking wife, Carley who is a stone-cold fox. Who if you were to rate her ass on a hundred, it would easily be a 94. Also wanna thank you for my best friend and teammate, Cal Naughton Jr. who’s got my back no matter what.
Cal: Shake and Bake.
Ricky: Dear Lord Baby Jesus, we also thank you for my wife’s father, Chip. We hope that you can use your Baby Jesus powers to heal him and his horrible leg. And it smells terrible and the dogs are always bothering with it. Dear tiny, infant Jesus, we….
Carley: Hey, you know, sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him “baby.” It’s a bit odd and off-putting to pray to a baby.
Ricky: Well, I like the Christmas Jesus best and I’m saying grace. When you say grace you can say it to grownup Jesus, or teenage Jesus, or bearded Jesus or whoever you want.
Carley: You know what I want? I want you to do this grace good so that God will let us win tomorrow.
Ricky: Dear tiny Jesus, in your golden-fleece diapers, with your tiny, little, fat, balled-up fists….
Chip: He was a man! He had a beard!
Ricky: Look, I like the baby version the best, do you hear me? I win the races and I get the money.
Carley: Ricky, finish the damn grace.
Cal: I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T shirt, cause it says, like, “I wanna be formal, but I’m here to party, too.” Cause I like to party, so I like my Jesus to party.
Walker: I like to picture Jesus as a ninja fighting off evil samurai.
Cal: I like to think of Jesus, like, with giant eagle’s wings. And singing lead vocals for Lynyrd Skynyrd, with, like, a angel band. And I’m in the front row, and I’m hammered drunk.
Carley: Hey Cal, why don’t you just shut up?
Cal: Yes, ma’am.
Ricky: Okay. Dear 8 pound, 6 ounce newborn infant Jesus, don’t even know a word yet, just a little infant and so cuddly, but still omnipotent, we just thank you for all the races I’ve won and the 21.2 million dollars – woo! (the rest of the family says “woo” too) – love that money, that I have accrued over this past season. Also, due to a binding endorsement contract that stipulates I mention Powerade at each grace, I just want to say that Powerade is delicious and it cools you off on a hot summer day. And we look forward to Powerade’s release of Mystic Mountain Blueberry. Thank you for all your power and your grace, dear baby God. Amen.
OK, the clip was kinda funny, but on a serious note, it reveals some of the popular but incorrect notions that we have of prayer. Prayer is our best connection to God, so we need to make sure we are doing it the way He has instructed us. If we truly want to see results from our prayers, we must pray like Jesus taught us to pray.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: Let’s all take a second to share our name and whether, in our family, we call a meal-time prayer a “blessing” or “grace.”
- ASK A FEW: Do you think this would be the sort of prayer that God would answer? Why or why not?
- ASK A FEW: What were some of the things Ricky Bobby did wrong during this prayer?
- ASK A FEW: Do you think most Christians know how to truly pray or not? Why?
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: Do you know how to pray?
Read the following passage from the Bible:
Matthew 6:5-13 (New Living Translation)
“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
Tonight we watched a silly clip about all the ways NOT to pray. It was fun to dissect all the things Ricky Bobby did wrong in his prayer. But what’s not funny is how similar his prayer is to ours, at times. If we’re not careful, our prayers begin to be consumed with a “me first” attitude because we don’t pray for others. Also, we can turn our prayer time into “gossip hour” if we aren’t very careful. If we want God to answer our prayers, we have to pray in a way that is very different from the way Ricky Bobby prays.
Fortunately for us, Jesus told us exactly how to pray. The “model prayer” that we read about in Matthew 6 is called the Lord’s Prayer. For two thousand years, Christians have been using this prayer as a guide for their own prayer life. I suggest we do the same.
Earlier, we broke this prayer down, line by line, to see why each part was important. As we did so, hopefully you saw how each part of the prayer connects to our hearts and instructs us on how to pray.
For instance, “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy,” talks about our need to recognize God as holy and perfect. This is the part of our prayer when we praise God. We should spend several moments at the beginning of our prayers telling God how good He is and how wonderful He is.
Then comes the part about God’s Kingdom and His will. “May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” This is the part of our prayer where we tell God we want what He wants… for our lives, for our families, for our futures, etc. Essentially, we are telling God to make His Kingdom come through us as we do His will on earth. During this part of our prayers, we should ask God what His will is so we can do it.
Then, and only then, do we turn our prayers to our needs. “Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Nothing is off limits here, so long as it aligns with His will. We can ask Him for anything. The list of things you ask of God isn’t limited to three requests per day or anything like that; we can ask Him for as much as we need!
And finally, the last part of our prayers should focus on God’s leadership and protection in our lives. “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” We need God to watch over us and take care of us because we have an enemy who wants to destroy us.
When you take all of this into consideration, it’s easy to see why prayer is so critical to our relationship with God. It’s the way we communicate with Him. It’s the way we ask Him for help. In short, it’s the way we change the world. John Wesley once famously said, “God does nothing apart from prayer.” This means, God doesn’t do anything unless we pray for it. That’s a good enough reason right there to be people of strong prayer. And we will be if we speak from our heart and follow Jesus’ teachings on prayer.
Close in Prayer
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.